What is zero budget farming and why Prime Minister Narendra Modi is batting for it

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar announced that the Centre will form a committee, comprising of representatives from the Centre, state governments, farmers, scientists and economists to look into the issues of zero budget farming, minimum support price

FP Staff December 01, 2021 13:29:22 IST
What is zero budget farming and why Prime Minister Narendra Modi is batting for it

Representational image. AFP

A committee will look into the issues of zero budget farming, minimum support price, crop diversification and other issues, said Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, urging the farmers to return to their houses from the borders where they have been protesting for more than a year.

Tomar's announcement of the Centre forming a committee, which will comprise of representatives from the Centre, state governments, farmers, scientists and economists, came after the Narendra Modi-led government repealed the controversial farm laws in Parliament.

The repeal of the farm laws came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on 19 November.

So, what is zero budget farming and how does it affect farmers. Here’s all we know about it.

Zero budget farming

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations calls it Zero Budget Natural Farming. It is a set of farming methods that seeks to bring down the costs of farmers by relying on 'natural products' rather than spending money on pesticides and fertilisers.

The practice first began in the state of Karnataka, born out of collaboration between Subhash Palekar, who put together the ZBNF practices, and the state farmers association Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.

The idea behind Zero-Budget Natural Farming is to provide an alternative to chemical fertilizers and pesticides and return to a pre-green revolution style of farming.

Zero-Budget Natural Farming is based on the following four pillars:
• Jeevamrutha: It is a mixture of fresh cow dung and aged cow urine, jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil; to be applied on farmland.
• Bijamrita: It is a concoction of neem leaves & pulp, tobacco and green chilies prepared for insect and pest management, which can be used to treat seeds.
• Acchadana (Mulching): It protects topsoil during cultivation and does not destroy it by tilling.
• Whapasa: It is the condition where there are both air molecules and water molecules present in the soil. Thereby helping in reducing irrigation requirement.

Benefits of Zero Budget Natural Farming

Zero Budget Natural Farming aims to reduce costs as it removes the dependence on fertilisers and pesticides. This aspect is important as farmers in India continue to struggle with debt.

The ‘Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households and Land Holdings of Households in Rural India, 2019’, which was released on 10 September 2021 revealed that more than half of the country's agricultural households were in debt, with an average outstanding of Rs 74,121.

The survey found Andhra Pradesh to have the highest average outstanding loan, at Rs 2.45 lakh, among 28 states. The state also had the highest proportion (93.2 per cent) of agricultural households under debt, followed by Telangana (91.7 per cent) and Kerala (69.9 per cent).

Other than the financial aspect, Zero Budget Natural Farming also has a positive effect on the environment. It advocates to steer clear of chemical-intensive farming, which is resulting in soil and environmental degradation. Also, it suits all crops in all agro-climatic zones.

Issues concerning Zero Budget Natural Farming

But while it all sounds very nice, Zero Budget Natural Farming is not without its drawbacks.

Scientists from National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) say that it is an 'unproven' technology.

Speaking to Indian Express, Panjab Singh, president of the NAAS, said: "We reviewed the protocols and claims of ZBNF and concluded that there is no verifiable data or authenticated results from any experiment for it to be considered a feasible technological option."

Moreover, while Zero Budget Natural Farming aims to reduce costs, it seems that's not really the case, as farmers will have bear the cost of labour for field work and cattle rearing. They will also have to invest additional time in the collection of dung and urine, over and above the already labour-intensive farming process.

Also, Zero Budget Natural Farming advocates the need of an Indian breed cow, whose numbers are declining at a fast pace.

Farmers who have been adopting Zero Budget Natural Farming also has seen a decrease in yield, forcing farmers to rethink the proposition.

With inputs from agencies

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